General Keith Alexander – the director of the National Security Agency (NSA), calls cybercrime “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” As such, he urged politicians and the American people in general to support cybersecurity legislation being pushed through Congress.
While I support such efforts in principle, I remain skeptical as per the proposed extent, or lack thereof, of any such legislation. Cyber security is without doubt a real and potent issue, but like terrorism, it should not be used as an excuse for giving “blank checks” to the NSA or any other clandestine government organisation.
The fact that it is Paul Wolfowitz himself – extreme neoconservative, chief Iraq warmonger and knowing disseminator of false intelligence information, who introduced General Alexander at the American Enterprise Institute – another well known right wing think tank, does not make me any less suspicious.
The issue of cybercrime is a complex one and a single top-down centralized solution to the problem does not seem plausible to me. Furthermore, some of the remedies suggested such as automatic system patching usually are the most convenient paths of attack that hackers try to exploit. Introducing a “patch up” capability by hardware design also meas that there are vulnerabilities “by design”. Yes, the original design is always that such “back doors” will be used by the good guys only, but the reality is different. Once we have those we become an even easier prey not only to ingenious hacker attacks but also government snooping.
Regardless, cyber security is a real issue and we must come up with proper policies, procedures and legislation to address it. So the video is still well worth watching. It is about 40 minutes of presentation, followed by a 20 minute Q&A session and an hour of expert panel discussion. I myself found that the Q&A was as interesting, if not more so, as the actual presentation itself.